The Big Reason Why Democrats Face An Uphill Battle In Georgia

In a previous piece I laid out the major reasons why Republicans should be thrilled Senate control will be decided in Georgia, and not say Wisconsin. Since that time, a number of pieces have come out arguing the GOP should not be considered favorites in the contest and maybe even slight underdogs (shudder).

I remain firm in my prior piece the GOP maintains a distinct, albeit slight, advantage in the run – off. While there is little doubt Democrats are ascendant in the state’s suburbs and new majority-minority coalition, the state GOP maintains a robust infrastructure. Additionally, the GOP enjoys one advantage in this run – off which tends to get ignored and even my piece only touched on it briefly; Joe Biden outrunnning both Warnock’s and Ossoff’s vote totals.

This is why the GOP enjoys a slim advantage. Let’s take a look at the numbers shall we. Joe Biden won Georgia by about 12,00 votes (or at least the machines tabulated 12K more votes for him). He won Arizona by about the same margin (hardly a resounding win). But, Biden garnered 100,000 more votes than John Ossoff and every other Democratic candidate in the state’s special election.

This is not necessarily unusual (just talk to Democrats about their past run – off issues). However, Democrats are competing to win and to win they might just need to find out who these voters are and why they did not vote Democratic down – ballot. We can use both supposition and precinct level data, courtesy of the Washington Post, to figure out who these people might be.

An average precinct in the state has about 2,000 registered voters and Joe Biden outperformed John Ossoff in almost 70 percent of all precincts. This was particularly true in the growing Democratic bastion of the Atlanta suburbs and metro area (consisting of precincts within Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Rockdale counties)..

So, what does the data tell us? Not surprisingly, Biden did better than Ossoff not just statewide but in the Atlanta suburbs. Using a data from L2Political, a voter file vendor that collects data on registered voters across the US, we can examine various aspects of a voter’s profile including income, education and race by precinct.

Looking at the precincts where Biden did significantly better than Ossoff (3 points or more) we can get an indication of who these voters are and make suppositions from there. This analysis is not conclusive, but then again the only thing conclusive in politics is elections and even now maybe not.

Not to stereotype or assume, but the data does paint a picture we most likely expected. In precincts statewide where Biden performed better than Ossoff (about 25 percent of all precincts), the median household income was $32,000 higher than the state average, the percentage with a bachelor’s degree is 42 percent higher and the population is slightly whiter than the state as a whole.

Looking at the data in metro Atlanta and its suburbs we see the precincts where Biden did better than Ossoff were $30,000 wealthier, residents were 58 percent more likely to have a bachelor’s degree and were slightly blacker than the state as a whole (as expected).

Specifically, in urban Atlanta, precincts in which Biden outperformed Ossoff are $41,000 wealthier and have 37 percent more voters with at least a bachelor’s degree than the average precinct in those 10 counties. What separates Atlanta from the surrounding area is its racial composition. While in the average Atlanta area precinct 39 percent of voters are White and 43 percent are Black, in the Biden-but-not-Ossoff precincts, it’s 60 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Thus, we can easily surmise the Biden but not Ossoff voters in Atlanta lived in wealthier, whiter and more educated neighborhoods.

The data adds credence to the theory that wealthier, more educated, suburban voters shifted to Biden and Democrats but did not fully embrace them down – ballot (as we saw in other areas of the country).

If you move outside Atlanta though, and specifically compare it to non – Atlanta, we see income and education levels are virtually the same. The only difference was in racial composition where Biden did better in blacker than whiter precincts (as expected). Now, not all voters are black or white but the largest groups of voters in the state are white and black. However, it should be noted in an extremely close election large margins among Asians and Hispanics (2 percent and 5 percent of the electorate) could swing the contest.

So, what does all this data mean? More generally, it means the suburbs did shift away from Donald Trump, particularly swingy or red leaning wealthy white suburbs. Again, we saw this phenomenon across the country In the Atlanta area, it is possible this kind of voter voted Biden for President and Perdue for Senate or for Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel (115K total votes). We know that 70,000 people voted Biden for President in the Atlanta area and not for Ossoff so why these voters did so and whether they are persuadable is important. Outside of Atlanta, the number was closer to 30,000, suggesting these voters might have just skipped the Senate race entirely.

These are small voter differences but perhaps there is a small subset of voters who see the value in divided government. Perhaps those who voted for the Libertarian candidate felt they needed to come out and vote but did not endorse either of the major party presidential choices.

It is impossible to know why individual voters cast the ballots they did. Which is a primary reason why both parties are targeting their bases. The number of absentee ballot requests has certainly gone out to partisans of both parties. But, the small subset of voters who seem primed to support divided government or who truly need persuading could be the key to the election. The data points to these voters being more educated and wealthy (at least in Atlanta) which means they most likely have access to the latest news and stories. If these voters truly do value divided government, the GOP has a built – in advantage with these voters. Combined with the redness of the state (despite Biden’s win) that is why Republicans maintain the slimmest of advantages in their quest to hold the Senate.


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